Hungary: Spar ranks highest in plastic waste sustainability study by Greenpeace

The plastic waste of grocery chains and sustainability, skyrocketing grocery prices despite extended price caps, soaring inflation, Hungarian SMEs prioritizing green solutions and the egg alliance targeting teenage audiences with TikTok campaign - Our weekly briefing on agriculture, food and nature news in Hungary

A trader's stand in a market hall in Budapest, Hungary
Beeld: ©Zoltán Szászi
According to the Central Statistical Office, Hungary's food inflation in November has reached 43.8%.

Greenpeace ranks grocery retailers’ plastic waste sustainability, Spar ranks highest

Greenpeace Hungary has recently conducted a study on the state of grocery retailers’ efforts to reduce plastic waste.

The point of the study is to examine and assess food retail chains in terms of the amount of packaging-free products on the shelves, whether refilling and recycling is available in stores, and whether customers can take products home in single-use plastic bags or in eco-friendly bags.

The organization ranked the country’s leading grocery retail chains on a percentage scale. On this scale, in terms of plastic waste sustainability, 80-100% is considered “good”, the 60-79% bracket is “developing”, 40-59% “requires further development,” 20-39% is considered “requires massive development”, and 0-19% is labeled “lagging behind”.

Spar and Auchan ranked highest in the study, with 72% and 63%, respectively, while Aldi, Lidl and Tesco all finished in the 40-59% bracket. Penny, CBA and Coop are at the end of the list in the lowest brackets.

The international Greenpeace network has conducted similar studies in multiple countries and at first glance it seems Hungary [SZ1]  [GKv2]  is doing surprisingly well compared to the United States.

Telex: The average shopping basket 50% more expensive than in 2021

The Central Statistical Office (KSH) has published the latest (official) figures on inflation in Hungary. Annual inflation has reached 22.5% in November, while food inflation has reached 43.8%. Out of various food categories, the statistical office’s records show that very high price increases include the rising price levels of eggs (102.9%), bread (81.8%), dairy (79%), pastas (70.8%), poultry meat (54,4%), pastries (54%).

The news portal has been doing its own in-house measurement of the increasing of grocery prices and food inflation with the tracking of the average consumer product basket with logging sampling shopping. In their own basket, out of food items, the price of bread rose more (100%), other high price increases include onions (162%), cube cheese (114%), quality A rice (89%), durum pasta (84%), Edam cheese (82%), Gouda cheese (80%), milk (80%).

The news portal highlights that these price increases are especially painful for the populace since bread, pasta and rice are considered to be the cheapest calorie sources, making them a staple part of the consumer baskets of lower-income households.

Telex has been measuring the price changes of their own 23-product “weekend shopping basket” which is compiled to reflect the average weekly shopping of a Hungarian household. While their product basket was worth €38.57 (at current prices) in December 2021, in December 2022 it was worth €57.89, which means that grocery prices increased by 50% in a year according to the portal, exceeding the official figures of KSH.

Comparing this to mean income figures by KSH, the portal has found that based on the latest figures, the average weekend shopping basket made up 4.8% of a person’s (average monthly) salary in 2021, while by December 2022, this figure has increased to 6.8%. This shows how a larger and larger share of Hungarian citizens’ disposable income goes into basic groceries and food, reaching almost 7% of the monthly salary for one weekend’s grocery shopping.

In comparison, in 2015, in most of Western and Central Europe, citizens spent under 20% of their disposable income on food.

Last week we reported on how the Governor of the Hungarian National Bank has heavily criticized the government’s price cap policies and their adverse effects on inflation.

Price caps further extended, small grocery shop owners “in despair”

The news portal reported this week that the Hungarian government has further extended the price caps on food products until April 30, 2023. The economic analysis portal commented that “from the perspective of the grocery industry and food trade, this not good news, however, due to its political benefits, it could be expected.”

Opposition politicians and small grocery owners have criticized the decision on the news channel ATV. One fruit and vegetable shop owner, Ms. Valéria Friedman, commented to the TV channel: “The government shouldn’t give handouts out of our pockets. Give handouts from their own pockets. From the VAT [governmental tax income], not my pocket. I have already paid my taxes out of my income, they mustn’t take any more than what they already have.”

The government has communicated that from the 2023 budget, there will be some resources allocated to the support of village groceries.

Egg alliance shows quick breakfast recipes for teenagers on TikTok

A recent study by the Foundation for Nutrition Science and the organization 21Nő, published in November, shows that the majority of high school students rarely eat nutritious home-made meals together with their families in the morning. 38% of high school students only eat home-made meals for breakfast a few times a month, 41.5% eat home-made breakfasts with their families between 1-3 times a week.

In most cases, they skip breakfast or eat a quick snack alone.

The domestic alliance of Hungarian egg producers has started a campaign to popularize healthy meals in 2019. In 2020, due to the pandemic, they moved the campaign online, continuing it on TikTok.

During the relatively long winter break of 2022, the campaign will involve popular influencers on TikTok to focus on healthy breakfasts made from eggs. The point of the renewed campaign is to teach high school students quick recipes for nutritious breakfasts using eggs that can be prepared in a few minutes.

Four-fifths of Hungarian SMEs prioritize sustainable operations reports that four-fifths of Hungarian micro and small enterprises consider sustainable business operations important. They are more driven by conviction rather than social pressures or some perceived benefit, according to a recent survey on the sustainability aspects and operations of the segment.

Buying energy-saving light bulbs, saving electricity (for example, switching off lights when they are not needed), e-invoicing, providing digital payment options, sorting waste - these are the most widely used sustainable practices among Hungarian micro and small businesses, according to a recent nationally representative survey commissioned by Mastercard and conducted by Kantar Hoffmann.

The research also revealed that there are practices that are perceived by the companies concerned as having a significant sustainability impact, but many of them are not used. These include environmental investments, active environmental protection activities (such as tree planting) and subsidies for green NGOs - but also, for example, digital solutions such as online presence or online meetings.

Dear Reader,

This is our last Hungary briefing for 2022. The Agroberichten Buitenland Hungary and Serbia pages will be going on hiatus for the holiday period. We will be back in January with our regular news reporting - Until then, stay tuned!

The LAN Hungary & Serbia team would like to wish you happy holidays and a prosperous, happy new year.